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Symptoms and risks

Information and advice about coronavirus symptoms and what to do to reduce the risk of infection

June, COVID-19 survivor

I didn’t think I had COVID-19. I didn’t feel unwell, I felt like I was breathing normally. Because I was so badly infected, they had to get me on the ventilator fairly quickly. I was in the ICU for 32 days.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • fever
  • chills or sweats
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose
  • loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

If you have any of these symptoms, however mild, you should seek advice and get tested. To get further advice, call the Coronavirus Hotline 1800 675 398 or your doctor.

Anybody can get COVID-19 if they have contact with a person who has the virus, unvaccinated people are a greater risk than vaccinated people.

People who have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are at high risk of becoming infected. This includes people who live in group settings with other people and share common rooms (such as aged care homes or boarding houses).

While most people will only have mild symptoms, anybody can become very sick with COVID-19 and spread it to others.

  • We know that certain people are more likely to become very sick with COVID-19. Older people are more likely to get very sick with COVID-19 because immune systems become less effective with age.
  • Having an underlying illness makes people more likely to become very sick with COVID-19 including those with diabetes, chronic lung disease, kidney failure and people with low or suppressed immune systems.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to become very sick with COVID-19 due to higher rates of pre-existing medical conditions. Find more information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The following pages provide more information on COVID-19 and other medical conditions:

Our health services pageExternal Link has more information on who is in an at-risk group

People living with HIV

There is no evidence so far to suggest that people living with HIV, who are on effective anti-retroviral therapies with undetectable viral loads, are at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or developing severe disease. However, as HIV infection can result in suppression of the immune system and other comorbidities, people living with HIV are a higher risk group than the general population.

Read this factsheet for more information

What if I’m a smoker?

People who smoke are generally at higher risk of respiratory tract infections, like lung and chest infections. There is also evidence to suggest that e-cigarette use (vaping) leads to a higher risk of respiratory tract infections. Quitting smoking has never been more important, as COVID-19 causes respiratory illness, and in some cases breathing difficulties and pneumonia.

You can find more information on smoking or ‘vaping’ and COVID-19 in this factsheet

I am feeling unwell, what should I do?

If you begin to feel unwell, and have a fever or a cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath or respiratory illness you should get tested for COVID-19.

If you have severe symptoms, such as breathing difficulty, chest pains, or blueness around the mouth, call Triple Zero 000 for urgent help.

If you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19 symptoms, contact your GP.

Who can be tested for COVID-19?

Anyone who has any of the below symptoms, however mild, should get tested. For advice, call the Coronavirus Hotline 1800 675 398 or your doctor.

  • fever
  • Chills or sweats
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose
  • loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Testing is free for everyone regardless of visa status, residency or Medicare coverage.

From time-to-time people may get tested due to high-risk industry surveillance or outbreaks, even if they do not have any symptoms.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

Visit the Getting tested page for step-by-step advice on getting tested for COVID-19 and the Where to get tested page for locations of testing sites.

What if there are no testing sites listed in my area?

If there are no testing sites listed near you, contact your doctor or local community health service or the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 for assistance. Make sure you phone ahead and discuss your symptoms before you visit in person.

How can I protect myself and others?

  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Wear a mask and wash or sanitise your hands regularly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Get tested if you feel unwell.
  • Get vaccinated for flu (influenza). This will help reduce the strain on the healthcare system as it deals with COVID-19. Vaccines are now available from your doctor and pharmacy.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread by infected people when they cough or sneeze. People may also pick up COVID-19 from surfaces contaminated by a person with the virus.

The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated against COVID-19, wear a mask, and practise good personal hygiene such as regular hand washing and coughing or sneezing into your elbow.

For more information about the transmission of COVID-19 visit the Facts about COVID-19 page.

How do you define 'household or household-like contact'?

You are identified as a household or household-like contact if you have spent more than four hours with someone who has COVID-19 inside a house, accommodation or care facility. Visit Checklist for contacts for more information.

Does COVID-19 survive on surfaces?

Studies suggest that COVID-19 may live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions such as the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant.

Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

What is the difference between COVID-19 and the flu?

COVID-19 and influenza (flu) are different viruses. COVID-19 causes a more severe disease than seasonal influenza. Globally, two to four per cent of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than one per cent of those infected. For more information visit the Facts about COVID-19 page.

Who is required to quarantine and what does it involve?

There are certain circumstances that require someone to quarantine, including:

  • returning from international travel
  • waiting on a test result for COVID-19
  • if you are a close contact of someone who is a case of COVID-19.

When quarantining you must go straight to your home or to your accommodation and stay there, except to seek medical care or in an emergency (including if you are experiencing family violence). Read Checklist for COVID contacts for more information.

If you are returning to Victoria from overseas, please visit Information for Quarantine for more specific information about what is required.

Information is available on the support for when you isolate or quarantine and to support your mental health.

Who is required to isolate and what does it involve?

If you test positive for COVID-19 you must isolate at home, away from others. You cannot leave home for any reason, except to seek medical care or in an emergency (including if you are experiencing family violence).

The Department of Health will let you know what date your isolation ends.

More information about isolating with COVID-19 is available on What to do if you have COVID-19.

Reviewed 22 March 2022

Coronavirus Victoria

24/7 Coronavirus Hotline

If you suspect you may have COVID-19 call the dedicated hotline – open 24 hours, 7 days. The COVIDSafe Information hotline diverts to the national hotline every day from 8pm to 8am.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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